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The Impact of Working, Learning From Home on Family Finances

family finances

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned just about every aspect of our lives upside down — starting with our day-to-day work and school obligations, and for many, our family finances.

Kids and employees across the country were sent home in March to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, children have learned virtually — via their schools or summer camps that pivoted to online offerings. Employees continue to work remotely. And we all got used to Zoom.

But our national experience with distance learning and remote working hasn’t come to an end. After a long summer at home, a new school year is beginning, and many of us are still working and learning remotely as the pandemic continues.

It’s been a hard six months for many of us. Some are juggling full-time work, child care and homeschooling responsibilities as they worry about their financial health. About 43% of U.S. adults say that they or somebody in their household has lost a job or experienced a pay cut since March, according to the Pew Research Center.

The financial impacts of working and learning from home could continue for months and have a big effect on the family finances of U.S. households for years to come.

There is plenty to worry about, but our work and learn-from-home life offers a few perks too.

Here’s a look at how remote work and school are having an impact on family finances -- both good and bad

Ongoing anxiety about job security

Not every worker is facing layoffs. Some companies and industries, including online retail, grocery stores and makers of cleaning products, are thriving. But, for many others, the crisis has been devastating, forcing difficult decisions about furloughs, layoffs and closures. And as businesses spent the remainder of the aid they received through a federal loan program this summer, more were looking at letting more workers go.

For many families, the uncertainty can cause an inordinate amount of stress. In its 2018 Financial Stress Survey, John Hancock found that 69% of workers were stressed over their family finances — and that was long before any of us were worrying about the financial impact of a global pandemic. That stress, according to the report, can lead to physical and psychological symptoms that can be costly for both employees and employers

Less hours for work

According to a report from the Boston Consulting Group, 60% of working parents said they had no help caring for their children during the pandemic, and another 10% reported having less child care support. On top of their work, they spent an extra 27 hours a week on child care, their children’s education and household chores. And nearly 50% said their performance at work has decreased as they try to do it all on their own.

That juggling could be one of many reasons why adults in households with children, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, were more likely to report job losses. The federal agency found that 55% of households with a child under the age of 18 had at least one adult lose income since the beginning of the pandemic.

Distance learning that requires new child care costs

As schools across the country start the year with full-time remote learning or a mix of in-person and online learning, parents, including those who have to work remotely, may need to find child care options for their children while they’re at home.

That means parents, who normally would send their children to a free public school, may need to pony up for tutors to ensure their kids stay on track or in-person camps where their kids will get help with remote learning, so parents can focus on their jobs during the workday.

These additional child care costs, which families wouldn’t normally have to pay for, could hit budgets hard. In a LendingTree survey, 56% of parents with young children said they have gone into debt because of the pandemic. More than a third have pulled funds from their child’s college fund to cover expenses.

Less expense for commuting, lunches out, work clothes

It might be cold comfort during a pandemic that’s causing widespread disruption to family finances, but there is a big benefit for workers who can work from home: It can also save money.

According to Flexjobs, the average worker saves about $4,000 a year when they work remotely. Those savings come by not spending money on gas or public transportation to get to work; eating lunch at home instead of going out with co-workers; and no longer spending money on work clothes or haircuts to keep up appearances. (Though it should be noted that people were splurging on new shirts, but not pants, as they made appearances on video conference calls this spring.)

Less back-to-school shopping

If kids aren’t going back to their physical school for some time, they won’t need that first-day outfit, lunch box or new backpack. Some families may still need to invest in new laptops or other devices, so their children can continue with virtual learning. But, for many, the usual back-to-school needs, including cleaning supplies, crayons and pencils to donate to their kids’ classrooms, may not be necessary until they return to their school buildings.

Unfortunately, we don’t know when exactly it will be safe to return to our physical workplaces and schools. And that means ongoing uncertainty for family finances across the country.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, CESI is here to help. Our counselors are available to assist if you are experiencing job loss, temporary loss of income or financial hardship during this time. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.

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